Cabinet Mountains: Judge pulls permit for Montanore mine, citing environmental risks

The Montanore mine would extract copper and silver from beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness west of Libby. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

(KPAX) There’s another legal setback to report in Hecla Mining Company’s efforts to develop the Montanore Mine in the Cabinet Mountains.

Hecla has been attempting to expand the Montanore Mine since purchasing the property two years ago.

The latest permit being challenged was by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which would have allowed Hecla to proceed with plans for the mine southeast of Libby.

The mine was initially opened more than 30 years ago, but the company had hoped to extend the shaft, with the DEQ permit allowing for the treatment and discharge of water in what has been characterized as a “state-of-the-art” system.

But Earthjustice, Save Our Cabinets, Earthworks and others challenged the permit and its impact on surface water quality.

Now, Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley is vacating the permit, saying it violates provisions of federal and state water quality laws. Seeley is remanding the permit back to DEQ for further review.

Eathjustice attorney Kathrine O’Brien says the decision sends a “strong message” that DEQ can’t “cut corners” when permitting “industrial pollution in our streams.”